SOME players might have some trepidation about being thrust into a relegation battle but Motherwell left-back Steven Hammell is relishing every minute back on the pitch.
Hammell has had a torturous season after picking up a groin tear in a Europa League defeat by Stjarnan that he struggled to shake off.
After several aborted comebacks, Hammell has finally returned just at the right time as Motherwell bid to get out of the bottom two of the Premiership.
The 33-year-old has helped his team pick up four points against Ross County and Kilmarnock ahead of their trip to St Mirren Park, to give themselves a chance of escaping a relegation play-off.
Hammell said: “The season from a personal point of view has been terrible with injuries and sitting watching the boys not doing so well. But it’s good to be back in now helping out because it’s terrible sitting watching, especially when the team is losing. It’s not a position I have been in before and I have really struggled to deal with it.
“But I have come back in the last couple of games and tried to help the team out as much as I can and, hopefully, that will be the case for the next two games as well and get us to move up at least one more spot in the league.
“I got set back a couple of times and thought I wouldn’t play again this season. But the progression went quickly from seeing the specialist and it’s good to be back. I have really missed it.”
Victory against relegated Saints today could put Motherwell’s destiny in their own hands – if both Kilmarnock and Ross County fail to win. But, equally, their fate could be sealed on Saturday with their two rivals three points and several goals better off.
And manager Ian Baraclough wants total focus on their own task.
“This game is probably going to be the toughest one we have had all season,” he said. “It’s against a team who have nothing to play for in the way of points but have loads to play for in terms of personal pride, contracts, possibly a new manager coming in if Gary [Teale] wasn’t selected to carry on.
“So they’ve got so much to play for in that respect and it makes them a dangerous animal.
“We have told the players they have to fight for every ball and every little chance that they can make.
“We will have a big support going to Paisley and we don’t want to let them down. Their minds can’t be elsewhere, it has got to be on beating St Mirren.”
Meanwhile, Baraclough insists no decisions have been taken on players leaving the club despite Simon Ramsden, Paul Lawson, Iain Vigurs and Stuart Carswell all advertising their availability on the PFA Scotland website.
“Players know the situation we are in, I can’t make decisions at the moment,” he said. “One or two players might think they have an idea but nothing has been said from me.”
One player who has been offered a new deal is Lee Erwin and Baraclough will wait patiently for the in-form striker to decide. “Lee knows what we think of him and if he is deciding to take his time on that, then that’s fine,” he said.
“Nobody is rushing anybody into it. We are trying to find what’s right for the club and Lee is very, very happy playing his football here.”
St Mirren winger Gregg Wylde, meanwhile, believes the Buddies should do all they can to keep hold of Gary Teale – even if he is replaced as boss.
The Paisley outfit have opened up a search for a new manager but have invited interim boss Teale to apply for his own post.
The former Scotland international has not had it easy since replacing axed manager Tommy Craig just before Christmas with a string of injuries and refereeing decisions costing him dearly, while the loss of top scorer Kenny McLean to Aberdeen on the final day of the winter transfer window was another blow. But even so, his failure to halt the club’s relegation from the Premiership may be enough to sway Saints chief Stewart Gilmour into appointing someone else.
Wylde hopes the 36-year-old can be persuaded to stay on at St Mirren Park, even if he has to drop back down the backroom pecking order.
The former Rangers, Bolton and Aberdeen player said: “Tealey can put his name in the hat along with the rest of the managers and then we will see who comes out.
“This was his first crack at management and he’s not done too bad. If the board chose him then great. If not, then hopefully he will stay on as a coach.
“One way or another I think he should still be here next season. He’s been here for so long now that I can’t see him leaving.
“He’s not had it easy since taking over with all the things that have gone against him but he took it all on board and has been great.”